THE founder of the world wide web has warned of the dangers posed by governments intent on increasing the monitoring and filtering of the online activity of their citizens.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee said while it was important to fight organised crime and for a state to defend itself against cyber attack, there were enormous negatives associated with excessive government oversight of the internet.
”The whole thing seems to me fraught with massive dangers and I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he said in Sydney on Tuesday in reply to a question about the Australian government’s data retention plan.
Sir Tim was speaking at the launch of the CSIRO’s $40 million Digital Productivity and Services Flagship, a research division focused on facilitating the growth of the digital economy and exploiting the full potential of the National Broadband Network.
The data retention proposal is part of the federal government’s overhaul of national security measures and would require internet service providers (ISPs) and telecommunication carriers to store the internet history of all Australians for at least two years.
”That information is so dangerous, you have to think of it as dynamite,” he said. Instead of nabbing ”serious criminals”, such a process would only snare people who had taken out too many library books.
While it was possible to set up a watchdog, he was not yet aware of any government that had successfully introduced a foolproof system of checks and balances.
Sir Tim, in Australia for the first time in 15 years, also raised a red flag about web filtering. ”I have a worry about a government that is liable to take too much control; maybe to spy, maybe to block. So beware of a government that has the ability to control what you see on the web.”
The retention plan, which would have required every Australian ISP to block overseas-hosted ”refused classification” material as identified by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, was shelved in November after several years of acrimonious debate.
Sir Tim invented the world wide web while working in Europe in 1989. He is the director of the World Wide Web Consortium, which oversees the web’s continued development, and holds a senior research position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The Communication Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, architect of a controversial mandatory internet filtering plan, also spoke at the launch.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Shanghai Night Net.